A Duke’s Mixture

Today, when I was getting my steps, I realized that my blog was going to contain an amalgamation of several topics. Wondering what to call it, I remembered what used to happen at our house on Yuma Trail when my mother, Evie Busk, dragged whatever collection of leftovers she could find lurking in our Westinghouse refrigerator, and served them up as dinner. She always referred to those meals as a “duke’s mixture.”

Whenever I heard that term, I always assumed it had to do with a member of British royalty, sort of like the Earl of Sandwich. I’ve believed that all might life, right up to this very minute when I finally looked it up.

It turns out Duke Washington, a veteran of the Civil War on the losing side, emerged from imprisonment in a POW camp and walked 137 miles back to his farm which had been ransacked in his absence. He managed to salvage some remaining tobacco leaves which he dried in the wreckage of a still-standing of his barn, packaged, and then hauled by a mule-drawn wagon from home to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he sold it for a tidy profit.

At the time he called first salvaged load of tobacco “Pro Bono Tobacco,” but that recipe, which contained several ingredients besides tobacco, was eventually renamed “Duke’s Mixture,” and it quickly became a rival to its chief competitor known as “Bull Durham.”

So there’s your history lesson for today. My mother’s leftover dinners had absolutely nothing to do with British royalty and everything to do with chewing tobacco, but I doubt she knew that reality, either.

So here’s today’s Duke’s mixture. On Sunday afternoon, at 4:54 PM, I crossed into 22,000,000-step territory on my iPhone. That adds up to my having walked 9200 miles. Getting my steps takes at least an hour and a half out of each day, but doing so has been a huge help in maintaining my sanity, especially during the enforced isolation brought about by the Pandemic. I’m still walking and still enjoying it.

During my undergraduate years at the University of Arizona, I lived in a co-op dorm called Pima Hall where the girls living there did all their own cooking and cleaning. Everyone had at least one dorm duty to perform every day. The four-o’clocks started dinner, the five-o’clocks finished it, the four-thirty set the tables, the five-thirties served the food and cleared the tables after dinner, while six-thirties did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen.

Of all the duties, I liked P,P,& V the best—that was cleaning the front porch, the back porch, and the vestibule. Second favorite was being a five-thirty. When it came to five-thirties, our housemother, Mrs. Van, was adamant about there being NO STACKING after dinner. Plates were to be carried from the dining room back to the kitchen two at a time—no exceptions.

That rule has been part of my mindset and household ever since, and all the grandkids know that when it’s time to clear the table after a dinner at Grandma’s house, NO STACKING is allowed.

Obviously I’ve previously mentioned this in a blog because last week I received an email from someone who has recently instituted that rule in her own household. “I don’t know why I never figured this out earlier,” she said. “Now the dishes are only dirty on one side.” Amen, sister. That’s the whole point of not stacking!

And this week, my grandson, too, mentioned the no-stacking issue. He’s currently working for a bowling alley as a dishwasher. “This week someone brought me a bunch of dishes stacked inside a bowl of spaghetti,” he told me. “It was a mess!”

All these years later, Mrs. Van’s “no stacking” rule lives on through me, but I doubt she’d be especially pleased about that. After all, I wasn’t exactly one of her faves. She fired me as dorm song leader for leading the girls in singing bawdy songs after dinner. The one that finally pushed her over the edge was most likely Rusty Warren’s Roll Me over in the Clover. In case you’ve never heard that song, the chorus goes like this:

Roll me over, in the clover,
Roll me over, lay me down, and do it again.

Not only did Mrs. Van disapprove of the song, she made it quite clear that she REALLY REALLY disapproved of my boyfriend.

Of course, she was right about the plates from the very beginning. It took me another twenty years to finally figure out she was also right about the boyfriend.

Hard as it is to write these words, I must admit that Mrs. Van Slyke was a very wise woman.

And then, there’s one more item I’d like to add into the mix. I’m writing the blog update on Tuesday afternoon. Right now the Den of Iniquity word count stands at 73.18%. I spent yesterday afternoon out on the back porch with the computer open on my lap with nothing about the story leaking out through my fingertips and into the keyboard. I was thinking about the book but not actually writing it.

When my daughter called in the afternoon on her way home from work for our daily “I’m in traffic” chat, I told her, “Congratulations on making it through another week at Costco.”

There was a long pause before she replied, “No, Mom, Today is Monday, not Friday.”

Why the day confusion? It may have been Monday afternoon here, but it was definitely Friday, March 6, 2020 in Den of Iniquity, and that’s where my mind was. So if you’ve even wondered if I get lost in writing my stories, now you know for sure that I do.

And that’s the end of J.A. Jance’s Friday morning Duke’s Mixture blog!